Friday, 5 September 2014

Spotlight on Shadow of the Last Men by J. M. Salyards

Today, dear readers, I bring you the dark dystopian future courtesy of J. M. Salyards and his book, Shadow of the Last Men. Xchyler Publishing is relaunching this excellent book with a new cover, and all the deserving pomp and fanfare. So take a look at the book, read the mini-interview with the author, enjoy the excerpt, enter the contest, and check out the fabulous book trailer...

Mini-Interview with J. M. Salyards

1- Welcome Jason, why don’t we start with an introduction.

Thank you for having me. I write as J.M. Salyards, and my current series, The Next Man Saga, is published by Xchyler Publishing. I live in Maryland with my wife and daughter. We're a very literary family of readers and writers. The unique and fascinating thing about authors is that the good ones write from their hearts and do so with passion. The best way to get to know me is by knowing my work. 

2- Your book, Shadow of the Last Men, depicts an apocalyptic and dystopian future. That particular fantasy/sci-fi sub-genre is a favourite of mine, what attracted you to write your series in this setting?

In some ways, we live in a dystopian present. That made Shadow of the Last Men somewhat easier to extrapolate. The work ended up as this hybrid creature of so many different genres out of necessity, rather than any desire on my part. There is wild fusion of high technology and old-fashioned human willpower and grit that has always attracted me about an apocalyptic setting, and the availability of so many moral and philosophical contrasts made a dystopian framework a natural fit for the kind of story I wanted to tell. With traditional fantasy there are handcuffs, and an author might be stifled a bit by the hidebound ways of approaching magic or characterization, racial issues, or class conflicts. I wanted a different kind of magic for Shadow of the Last Men, and as Arthur C. Clarke put it: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I considered that my license to write the story. He also wrote that "... one cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying." That cuts to the heart of the book. 

3- Do you have a favourite character from the book, and if so why?

There are four main characters in my first novel, and it's difficult to pick a favorite. They're all so different from one another, with animating, informing archetypes that often come into opposition. I don't like to play favorites. When I read a novel, I want my favorite character to be the one I'm reading about at that moment, because it means that the author has managed to inject the right amount of humanity and sufficient conflict into each mind present in the story. That said, Harrow, Quintain and Alouine all have traits I admire and, in some cases, wish that I had. The same can't be said for their antagonist, Carver Delano. Readers and reviewers have universally come to revile that character, so I consider him a smashing success in his own right.

4- What was the hardest scene in the book to write? And the easiest?

Action scenes are fun to write, and when one writes for fun, it's easy. What ends up being difficult is describing horrible things as they happen to good or innocent people. It was necessary, I think, because in a good vs. evil story, the reader can't know just how desperate the battle is unless there is a taste of darkness. There's genuine good, and genuine evil, in the story. On occasion, the line blurs. While Harrow can be considered a good man, he's better at merely being a man. He's good, but very rarely is he nice. To the contrary, Carver is never nice and doesn't care to be. Scenes of cowardice or bullying are hard to write and especially when a character is smashing or degrading something pure out of spite.

5- As Shadow of the Last Men is the first in a series, can you share any teasing tidbits about upcoming books?

What Shadow of the Last Men began, I hope to continue in Volume 2 of the Next Man Saga, Black Sunrise. We'll see some of the focus shift to some characters that there was no room for in the spotlight of the first novel, while ratcheting up the intensity. With the majority of the world-building complete, I can concentrate even more on a brisk and exciting pace. Story wise, it may remind some of an Empire Strikes Back feel. I'll endeavor to keep the stakes high and everything is in place to have a showdown type of climax. Look for Black Sunrise in the first half of 2015.

And if you enjoyed this interview be certain to check out 
J. M. Salyards' live author event!

Shadow of the Last Men by J.M. Salyards, Book 1 of The Next Man Saga

Here's the contest:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow Salyards on the web at:
Xchyler Publishing, an imprint of Hamilton Springs Press

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

My Newest Book: Killers and Demons II: They Return

Here's a preview of my newest book, Killers and Demons II:  They Return (the sequel to Killers and Demons). The book officially launches on October 4th, but it is available for pre-order now if anyone wants a copy.

Killers and Demons II:  They Return
by A. F. Stewart

Evil is back, with a greater appetite for death.

They lurk forever in the shadows, smile at you in the morning, and haunt your dreams at night. You can’t hide, you can’t run, and there’s no escape. You can only scream when they come for you.

Killers and Demons II:  They Return is a collection of thirteen tales, blending short stories and flash fiction, tales where the blood lingers on your tongue or spurts quickly from the swift cut.

The Villainous Roster:

Wade, every parent’s nightmare.
Hannah and Mr. Greeley. Who is the victim and who is the villain?
Simon and Zoe, a married couple who are dying to be single again.
Norman and his "cookie" of a wife, Mabel.
Millicent and Jane, a delightful duo you shouldn't invite to your Regency tea party.
Amanda, who literally has a skeleton in her closet.
Balthazar, the demon bounty hunter on the hunt once more.
Sarah, a young woman going through some changes and craving new tastes.
Emmeline, burned as a witch, now back from the dead for revenge.
Gabrielle, a woman haunted by shadows.
The Dollmaker, she showers death, and an umbrella won’t help.
Nightmare Demons, bent on driving a town insane.

And then there’s Alice, a little girl locked in the basement by her Daddy…

Together they form a spine-chilling cadre of predators.

And here's a little excerpt from the story Runner:

The thief smiled as he ducked in the back alley off a London street. He opened his hand and stared at the gold watch and fob he nicked.
“You’ll be worth some money. Enough to buy my mates a few beers.”
He shoved the watch into his pocket and glanced out into the lane. As the gas light cast shadows over the cobblestones, he saw no sign of the bobbies. Still, he decided to wait a few more minutes, leaning back against the brick of the alley wall. He shifted uncomfortably and wiped sweat from his brow. The air had turned warm and muggy.
A tall, lanky gentleman stepped out of the gloom, and a wave of searing heat washed over the thief. He collapsed, wheezing, his lungs burning from the air he breathed. His clothing smouldered and his skin blistered, flesh peeling off his body in crisp, black patches and he smelled the acrid odor of his own roasting flesh. The thief screamed before his vocal chords cooked as his body slowly sizzled.
The gentleman smiled as he watched the thief’s pain. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Balthazar, one of Hell’s demons. I believe you stole my watch.”

You can check out the Smashwords page here:

Or, check out these pages to pre-order the book before the October launch:

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Traveller

Here's the start of a story idea that came to me the other day. Not sure what it will turn into to, but I like the premise...

The Traveller

Dalia sidled to Imogene and whispered, “See that gent in the cloak at the far table?” Imogene nodded. “He gave me the right shivers when I served him. There’s something wrong with that one. I think we maybe ought to keep an eye out for trouble.”
Imogene stared at the gentleman in question, and a small memory of his features needled at the back of her brain. With a flicker, and then a surge, the memory flowed free. She sucked in her breath. For a moment she wanted to shiver.
“Leave him to me, Dalia.”
Imogene strode across the tavern floor and plopped her girth down on the bench opposite the stranger. “You haven’t changed much.”
The stranger gazed at her, his face partially shadowed by his hood, but she trembled under the bore of his intense jade-coloured eyes.
“Have we met before?”
“No, but you came to my village once when I was a child. Cathburg, up near the northern border. Do you remember it?”
“Yes. I remember it very well.”
“I thought you might. They didn’t let my cousin go easily.” She smiled, a sad and rueful twinge twisting the edges. “You haven’t aged. Not a day. But your kind don’t, do they?” She tilted her head. “Your eyes are different, though. Still formidable, but a weariness in them now, less fervour.”
“The passing years will do that…to my kind.”
“I expect so.” She sighed. “Who are you here for?”
“I don’t know yet.” He smiled, a disconcerting gesture. “But not you. That much is clear.”
Imogene chuckled. “Not much chance of that, not now, not at my age. You most always take `em young, don’t you?”
The man nodded. “As a rule, the magic calls early.”
“And pity the unfortunate soul that it summons.”
“There are worse lots in this existence, than to enter into the service of magic.”
“Aye. But not many.” Imogene rose to her feet, a reflective look on her face. “Just letting you know you’ll get no difficulties from me, but try not to bust up the place if there’s resistance.”
The man gave a low, horse chortle. “I’ll try.”
With a polite nod, she left the man to his business, to find her path blocked by an eager, inquisitive Dalia.
“So who is he, is there trouble brewing?”
“Yes, but it’s the kind to keep clear of, so stay away and don’t interfere in whatever happens.”
Dalia frowned. “I don’t understand. If he’s a good-for-nothing prone to bring problems, why let him stay?”
 “Leave it be, sometimes you’re too curious for your own good, girl.” At Dalia’s irritated look and refusal to move, Imogene sighed. Dalia was nothing if not persistent.
“If you must know, the gentleman in question is a Realm Traveller, from the Wizard Keep.” Imogene felt a twinge of satisfaction as Dalia’s complexion turned pale. “He’s come to collect some poor soul fated to become a practitioner of magic. So steer clear of him lest you find yourself caught up in wizardry.”
Dalia nodded vigorously and scurried back to her work serving the tavern’s patrons, taking a wide berth around his table to avoid the Traveller. Imogene wandered behind the bar, and idly stared at the stoic, formidable man.
I wonder who he’ll take, which one will walk in this place and have their life changed.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Book Spotlight: Forever The Road

Today I have for you the second part in our weekend double feature, where the spotlight shines on the soon-to-be released (Sept. 8th) third book in the Rucksack Universe fantasy series, Forever the Road by Anthony St. Clair.

Forever the Road by Anthony St. Clair

The world's greatest traveler never thought he’d be staying put.

Jay had planned to move on after marking Agamuskara, India, off his list of places to see. Then two strange men steal his passport, and the long-roaming loner stays in Agamuskara to find it. After years of globetrotting with no companion but his trusty big backpack, Jay befriends the stout-quaffing, ever-grinning Faddah Rucksack, the world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage. Now Jay finds himself being steered toward an unknown fate by a man who lost his own destiny long ago.

No Jake or Jade is better than Jade Agamuskara Bluegold at slinging drinks, destinies, and decisions. Yet after spending ten years helping The Management keep the world turning, the solitary, mysterious bartender at the pub at Everest Base Camp has begun to doubt the life she chose over another path. When Jade's uneasy friendship with Rucksack leads her to help him unravel the mystery at the heart of the city, Jade finds her loyalties changing in ways she never could have imagined.

When the bartender and the backpacker meet, forces are set in motion that won't just change the world forever—they might end it. Then Jay accidentally awakens an ancient evil, and only Jay, Rucksack, and Jade stand between it and its terrible purpose: destroying all life in a smiling fire.

Book webpage & pre-orders:

Launch campaign:

Author Bio:

Anthony St. Clair has walked with hairy coos in the Scottish Highlands, choked on seafood in Australia, and watched the full moon rise over Mt. Everest in Tibet. Anthony’s travels have also taken him around the sights and beers of Thailand, Japan, India, Canada, Ireland, the USA, Cambodia, China and Nepal. He and his wife live in Oregon and gave their son a passport for his first birthday. Learn more at

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Interview With Author Anthony St. Clair

Today is the first part of a double feature this weekend, spotlighting author Anthony St. Clair and his fantasy series, The Rucksack Universe. First up is an interview...

An Interview with Anthony St. Clair

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I love the world, its vastness, how much more there is to see, do, and learn than we could ever accomplish in one life.

Always a traveler as a kid and a college student, when I was 20 I went on my first international trip—from Virginia to Edinburgh, Scotland. It completely changed how I see the world and what I understood to be the possible paths open to a person. In addition to my original semester-long university exchange, I wound up being in Scotland on and off for the next year, along with a few months in Ireland. Since then I've traveled throughout India, Thailand, Cambodia, Tibet, China, Nepal, and Australia.

My wife and I live in Oregon, where we love to cook, listen to classical and Celtic music, and enjoy our friends and home. We also still love to travel; we gave our son a passport for his first birthday, and he was 15 months old when we all went to Japan for 3 weeks in 2013.

Your latest book is the third in your fantasy series, The Rucksack Universe.  Can you tell us about the series, and its latest book addition, Forever the Road?

The Rucksack Universe [] is an ongoing series of fantasy books based all around globetrotters, vagabonds, and wanderers on various world and personal journeys. All the stories combine fantastical elements, a dash of alternate history, a pinch of romance, and dollops of wit, adventure, and beer. Each book is interconnected yet stands alone. Readers can first come to the series from any book and be immersed in a rich world that is similar to ours, but different in key ways that unfold story by story.

In Forever the Road [], the third and most recent book, three travelers in India battle their hearts and their destinies as an awakened evil prepares to destroy all life. Readers of the first two books will learn more about some characters they've met before, we’ll meet some new folks, and we’ll get to know someone who was only hinted at in the first book.

While Rucksack stories are based solidly in fantasy, there are no vampires, werewolves, demons, mystical swords, fairies, leather pants, or other cliched fantasy tropes (or when there are, they're rarely what they seem). But there are travelers, lots of beer, one misguided leap from a train, mysteries, a strange little object in a big backpack, Indian food, destiny-slinging bartenders, a night getting lucky that turns pretty yucky, and, above all, a whole lot of consideration of what makes life worth living and people worth connecting with.

Your books fall into the urban fantasy genre. What appeals to you about urban fantasy, as opposed to say epic, or more otherworldly, fantasy?

Ever since I was a kid, I've been obsessed with other worlds, and I've also been obsessed with the idea that beneath all the hardship and difficulty of our own world, there is something grand and shining, beautiful and full of love, beneath it all.

What appeals to me about urban fantasy is how it is at once both different and recognizable. Urban fantasy stories say that we typically exist within and notice only a sliver of the full depth and breadth of our world. And sometimes, if we let ourselves be open to it—or if we’re just in the right (or wrong!) place at the right/wrong time, we can go to a different world.

But here’s the thing: ultimately that world is our world, and really where we’re traveling and questing and struggling is within ourselves. We’re learning more about our lives, how we can live more fully. We can see how we can do more of the things we want to do, and how to live with and move beyond the things that may have hindered or harmed us in the past.

Travel is a big part of your narratives, and you've had your own travel adventures. How much of what went into your books is from firsthand experience, and how much is from other research?

A reader who reviewed my Ireland-set second book, Home Sweet Road [], said “You can smell the smoke of peat fires and the briny sea and the rich green grass.” And that’s my hope: I want to transport readers. I want to immerse them in different cultures and places, in sensations and experiences, just like what happens when you not just visit a different place, but truly put yourself out there in the day-to-day world of Somewhere Else.

I use my boots-on-the-ground travel experiences to bring depth and verisimilitude to everything I write, while steering clear of the autobiographical. Of course, there are elements of my travels and person in my stories and characters—there’s a reason black coffee and stout beer are two of the four most important drinks in the Rucksack Universe! (Hmm. Suddenly, I’m thirsty.)

Forever the Road [] is set in India, in the fictional city of Agamuskara, which was founded by the first people to settle in the subcontinent. The city—and its river of the same name—is reminiscent of Varanasi with its dirty-yet-holy river, crowds, fascinating and diverse people, narrow streets, and heat.

Faddah Rucksack, one of my world’s main characters, says that “The only thing you can expect about India is that it will be itself.” And it’s true. India is a very in-your-face-with-everything-there-is-in-the-world country. It is intense, and pretty much every extreme of humanity and life co-exists there, often side by side.

I also use research to round out my knowledge or check details. However, one of the benefits of writing fiction is I can also make things up to fit the story, while also making the story fit the world. However, if I’m setting a story somewhere, I want to have traveled there too, because there are things you only learn from experience.

Can you tell us about your writing process?  Where do your ideas originate?  Do you have a certain writing routine?

My process is to write like I travel. I need to have some idea of where I want to go, but then give myself total freedom within that journey to change.

I can't just sit down and go from zero on a story. I need to know why the story needs to exist. I ask myself this question: "If I was telling my best friend why she should read this book, what would I say?" Once I can answer that question as both one word and one sentence, I plot out the story, including the action and emotion, scene by scene, all the way through.

Sometimes too, a story’s idea starts with the end in mind. A character is at a particular point in his or her journey—and then I work backwards. How did they get there? What happened along the way? What did it set up for what happens next?

As far as routine goes, writing is not just my passion, but my profession. And professionals get up and go to work, day in and day out, no excuses.

I set goals for what I need to do. And that varies project by project, since in addition to my books I write articles and do copywriting and content management for clients too. So my goal for the day might be to draft an 800-word article, or a blog post, or a scene in the next book. Once I've hit my goal I move on to other tasks for my business, or maybe read a book to my son, whatever. No matter what, I know I've done my creative work for the day and have pushed a project closer to done.

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?  Did anything surprise you about the process of writing your books?

I’d say my greatest challenge was in learning and understanding the process I needed to follow to go from starting stories but fizzling out, to turning out completed projects and published works.

Working on my fiction was nigh impossible until I sat down and worked through what I needed to do to write a story. I don't mean the discipline or the time or the mechanics of writing; I mean the "why" of the story, the reason that I needed to write the tale instead of, say, repairing my back fence or organizing the garage.

Figuring out my process was probably harder than actually writing a book. Now that I know my process, I can crank through my planning and manuscript writing at a strong pace.

Probably the thing that now surprises me the most, is just how deep the creative well goes. I know sometimes people are afraid to write or publish something, because they fear they won’t have anything else to say. In my experience, the opposite has happened. The more I delve into my world and share its stories, the more ideas come.

Who has inspired you as an author?

In terms of other authors, Tom Robbins, Bill Bryson, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman are big inspirations. Some inspire me for their work ethic, some for the amazing literary and popular quality of their works, and some just because they’re neat people.

But probably my biggest inspiration is my Grandma Denise. She’s the most vivacious person I know, always living life to the fullest and making time for the experiences and people she cares about. She’s had her hardships in life, but it made her all the more determined to focus on what mattered to her. That’s an attitude and outlook I work hard every day to maintain, and I hope I’m instilling that same sense of focus, decision, and passion in my son.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I once heard that writers need to have something to do with their hands that isn't writing. For me, that’s cooking. Good, simple, honest, from-scratch food is important to me and my family. If I’m not writing, there’s a good chance I’m in the kitchen. My wife and I often cook and bake together. Every since my son was a baby, I've been putting bacon under his nose, explaining how to do a parallel cut with a chef’s knife, and spotting him while he pours flour into a bowl.

What’s next for you?

2014 has been such an amazing year. Home Sweet Road [] came out in January, and I recently put out a new cover for the first book, The Martini of Destiny []. I’m hard at work on the next 2 Rucksack Universe books, due out in 2015. I’m also figuring out the best way forward to bring all 3 current books to audiobook format, and am looking at translations too. 

Beyond all that? My wife and I are expecting our second child, codenamed Marvellous Kiddo, in November. Writing and publishing books is really cool, but nothing is more exciting than meeting this new person.

Anthony St. Clair has walked with hairy coos in the Scottish Highlands, choked on seafood in Australia, and watched the full moon rise over Mt. Everest in Tibet. Anthony’s travels have also taken him around the sights and beers of Thailand, Japan, India, Canada, Ireland, the USA, Cambodia, China and Nepal. He and his wife live in Oregon and gave their son a passport for his first birthday. Learn more at

Thanks to Anthony for such a great interview, and be sure to pop back tomorrow for a feature spotlight on the third book in the Rucksack Series, Forever the Road, to be released Sept. 8th.

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